What Are The Different Parts of a Wedding Dress? Wedding Gowns 101: All You Need to Know

When choosing the perfect wedding dress, the process can be overwhelming and it’s important to be prepared. From determining your budget to identifying your body type, many factors must be considered before you start trying on dresses. 

In this article, we will discuss some important tips to remember when shopping for your wedding dress, including what to bring to your fitting appointments, how to determine your budget and what to expect when trying on dresses.

Here is everything you need to know about wedding dress shopping:

The 3 Most Important Parts of a Wedding Dress, Explained

When it comes to a wedding dress, there are three important parts to consider. These would be the bodice, skirt and train. Although these are very important when choosing a wedding dress for your perfect day, as a bride, you will also want to consider accessories, hairstyles and the different fabrics and linings in your dress. 

Let’s discuss each of these in more detail.

Bodice Details

A bodice is the upper part of a dress that covers the torso and is typically worn with a skirt or pants. In a wedding dress, the bodice typically supports and shapes the upper body and can be made from various materials such as lace, satin or tulle.

There are several types of bodices commonly found in wedding dresses:

  • Sweetheart: This bodice features a heart-shaped, flattering neckline for those with larger busts.
  • Strapless: This bodice has no straps or sleeves and is popular for summer or destination weddings.
  • Off-the-shoulder: This bodice features straps or sleeves that sit just off the shoulders and can be a romantic and elegant choice.
  • Ball gown: This bodice features a fitted waist and a full skirt, a classic and timeless choice.

When choosing a bodice for your wedding dress, it is important to consider your body shape. Here are a few tips:

  • If you have a larger bust, choose a bodice with more support, such as a sweetheart or corset.
  • If you have a smaller bust, a strapless or off-the-shoulder bodice can help to create the illusion of more volume.
  • If you have a pear-shaped body, a bodice with a fitted waist can help to balance out your proportions.
  • If you have an hourglass shape, a fitted bodice can help to accentuate your curves.


Besides framing your upper body the bodice also holds another important part of your dress which is the neckline. The neckline of your wedding dress is located at the very top of the bodice where right where your neck and the top part of your arms are. Although it’s a subtle detail, the neckline gives dimension to your upper body and frames your face, and is one of the first things your guests will notice about your dress.

Necklines are available in many styles from collar high, to the classic sweetheart, down to the plunging V-neck. Always make sure to find a neckline that flatters your upper body and matches the bodice of your dress.


The waistline is a horizontal seam that joins the bodice and the skirt. Most brides cruise through this little detail while shopping for their dress however a good waistline will help in creating an optical illusion and flatter your best parts. Here are the most common waistlines you’re likely to come across;

Basque waist

This is a waistline style that incorporates a V-shaped and sits lower than the natural waist. This style is perfect if you are trying to elongate your torso and flatter your hips. This style is most popular with ball gowns however it can easily be incorporated into the A-line dress.

Dropped waist

This waistline sits around the hips and is the lowest type of waistline in the wedding dress section. This style is great to elongate your torso and create the illusion of having shorter legs. This waistline is popular in trumpet gowns and A-line dresses and gives a very vintage look to your gown.

 Natural Waist

This is the most popular style in wedding dresses and sits between your rib cage and hip bone. This waistline emphasizes the smallest part of our body and gives a proportionate look. It’s a classic that goes great with ball gowns and A-line dresses.

Empire waist

This waistline sits right below your bust area and creates the illusion of a shorter torso while elongating your legs. It pairs well with A-line and column gowns

Skirt Details

The skirt of a wedding dress is the lower portion of the dress that extends from the waist down to the hem. Its function is to provide a visual balance to the upper portion of the dress and create movement and flow as the bride walks down the aisle.

There are several different types of skirts that can be used in a wedding dress, including:

  • A-line: This type of skirt is fitted at the waist and flares out to the hem, creating an “A” shape. It is a popular choice for brides as it is flattering on many body types and can be worn with various bodice styles.
  • Ball gowns: A ball gown type of skirt is full and voluminous, with a fitted bodice and a wide hem. It is a classic and traditional wedding dress choice, often worn with a corset or bodice that cinches in at the waist.
  • Mermaid: This type of skirt is fitted through the hips and thighs and then flares out at the knee or lower, creating a mermaid-like shape. It is a more dramatic and form-fitting option and is best suited for brides with hourglass or pear-shaped figures.
  • Sheath: This type of skirt is straight and form-fitting, falling straight down from the waist to the hem. It is a modern and minimalist choice and is best suited for brides with slender figures.
  • Trumpet wedding dress: The trumpet style is similar to a mermaid style, but the skirt’s flare starts at a higher point, creating a trumpet shape. This style is perfect for brides who want to show off their curves and have a dramatic look on their wedding day. The trumpet-style dress is also a great choice for brides with an hourglass figure, as it accentuates their curves.

When choosing the right skirt for your wedding dress, it is important to consider your body shape. A-line and ball gown skirts are generally flattering on all body types, while mermaid and sheath skirts are more form-fitting. Additionally, consider the overall style and theme of your wedding, as well as your personal preferences and comfort level.

Train Details

A wedding dress train refers to the fabric that extends from the back of the dress and trails behind the bride as she walks down the aisle. The train adds a dramatic and elegant touch to the overall look of the dress and can be a focal point of the bridal ensemble.

Several different types of train can be found on wedding dresses, including:

  1. Cathedral train: This is the longest and most formal of all train styles, typically measuring around six feet or more. It is ideal for grand and formal wedding ceremonies and traditional and religious settings.
  2. Chapel train: A chapel train is slightly shorter than a cathedral train, measuring around four to five feet long. 
  3. Court train: A court train is shorter than a chapel train, measuring around two to three feet long.
  4. Sweep train: A sweep train is the shortest of all train styles, measuring just a few inches long.
  5. Detachable train: A detachable train allows the bride to remove the train after the ceremony, giving her the option to move around freely during the reception.
  6. Royal train: A royal train is the longest and most formal of all train styles, typically measuring around eight feet or more. 
  7. Watteau train: A Watteau train is a type of train that is attached to the dress at the shoulders rather than at the waist. It is a popular choice for elegant and sophisticated weddings.
  8. Pick-up train: A pick-up train is a type of train that is designed to be lifted off the ground as the bride walks. This gives the dress a more dramatic look and adds a sense of movement to the dress.


The hemline is simply used to define the length of your skirt. The longer the hemline, the more formal the wedding. While floor-length hemlines are standard, you can always find gowns with tea-length and high-low skirts.

As a rule of thumb floor-length hemlines indicate peak formality while mid-calf to ankle length is semi-formal. Anything shorter should be reserved for the reception so you can party without the weight of a dress weighing you down.


This is an often overlooked detail that could come in handy especially if you plan on having a train. Trains are a great part of your dress and add a lot of character however it’s hard to be carrying around a piece of fabric all day. Bustles are a set of hooks in the back of your dress that can help you shorten your train so you can move better at the reception. If you want these installed, you’ll have to speak to the seamstress as they are not a standard part of the wedding dress.

What You Should Know About Wedding Dress Sleeves

Wedding dress sleeves are an important aspect of a wedding dress’s overall design and style. Several types of sleeves can be added to a wedding dress, each with its unique look and feel.

Cap sleeves: These small, rounded sleeves sit on the shoulders and cover just the tops of the arms.

Short sleeves: These are sleeves that fall just above the elbow and are ideal for brides who want a little more coverage than cap sleeves but still want to show off their arms.

Long sleeves: These sleeves extend to the wrists and are perfect for brides who want to cover their arms completely or for cooler weather.

Bell sleeves: These are flared sleeves that are fitted at the shoulders and then flare out at the elbow, creating a bell-like shape.

Off-the-shoulder sleeves: These are sleeves that sit just off the shoulders and are perfect for brides who want to show off their shoulders and upper chest.

Illusion sleeves: These are sleeves made of sheer or semi-sheer material that provides coverage while still showing off the arms.

Lace sleeves: These are sleeves made of lace that add a romantic and delicate touch to the wedding dress.

What is the Piece Under the Wedding Dress Called?

The clothing worn under a wedding dress is typically called a “petticoat” or “underskirt.” The petticoat is worn to provide extra fullness and shape to the dress’s skirt. It can be made of various materials such as cotton, tulle or satin. It may be a separate piece or attached to the dress itself. The petticoat can also be worn to provide warmth, and it can be worn in different lengths according to the style of the dress.

Why is it Important to Identify Your Body Type

Finding a dress that flatters your figure and emphasizes your best features depends on identifying your body type before shopping. Certain dress styles will look better on certain body types based on their proportions. Fitted bodices and full skirts accentuate an hourglass figure, while an A-line dress creates a more balanced look on an apple figure.

Dresses that don’t fit well or don’t flatter your body type can also be avoided with knowledge of your body type. To determine your body shape and recommend styles that will look great on you, consult a stylist or a professional fitter.

You can also save time and money by narrowing your search for wedding dresses based on your body type before shopping. Finding your dream dress becomes easier and less overwhelming when you do this. Additionally, you can find the perfect dress for you with greater confidence when you take the time to do some research beforehand.

Pick an Adjective to Describe Your Dream Dress Style

Picking an adjective to describe your wedding dress can help you narrow down your selection. It can also help your stylist steer you in the right direction when shopping for your white dress.

Here are three popular adjectives used to describe dream wedding dresses.

  1. Elegant: An elegant dress exudes sophistication and refinement. It is often made from high-quality fabrics and features intricate details and embellishments.
  2. Romantic: A romantic dress evokes feelings of love and passion. It may feature soft, flowing fabrics, delicate lace and feminine details like ruffles and bows.
  3. Timeless: A timeless dress will never go out of style. It is typically a classic and elegant design that will look beautiful for years to come. It may feature simple, understated details and a timeless silhouette that will stand the test of time.

Wear Heels to Fittings for Wedding Dresses 

Wearing heels to a wedding dress fitting appointment is a smart idea for a few reasons.

  1. It lets you better understand how the dress will look on your big day. Wearing heels will help you see how the wedding dress will look when you wear the shoes you plan to wear on your big day. This will give you a better idea of how the dress will fit and flow when standing and walking.
  2. It helps to ensure the proper length: Wearing heels will help ensure the wedding dress is the right length for your height. When you try on a dress without heels, it may appear too long, but when you try it on with heels, it will be the correct length.
  3. It will give you an idea of how comfortable you will feel: Wearing heels during your wedding dress fitting appointment will give you an idea of how comfortable you will feel in them. If you find walking or standing in heels difficult, it may be worth considering a different shoe option for your wedding.

The dressmaker will be able to adjust the dress length if you wear heels when you try it on, even if you plan to wear flats or low-heeled shoes on your wedding day.

Figure Out Your Budget For Your Dream Wedding Dress

In the wedding planning process, it is important to establish your budget for the wedding dress of your dreams. Identifying your budget begins with determining how much you are willing to spend on your dress. Budget, priorities and preferences will all play a role in how you plan your wedding.

After you determine your budget, you can look at different styles and prices of dresses. There is a wide range of price ranges for wedding dresses, from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.

When looking for something that you love but exceeds your original budget, it’s important to set a realistic budget along with a backup budget. In addition to a budget for the gown, accessories such as shoes, jewelry and a veil should also be considered.

Looking for sales, sample sales or renting a dress can also help you find a beautiful dress at a lower price. Researching these options can help you find the perfect wedding dress while staying within your budget. 

How Does Bridal Sizing Work?

Bridal sizing works differently than regular clothing because wedding dresses are often custom-made or altered to fit the bride’s body perfectly. In addition, unlike traditional clothing, wedding dresses are not made in a wide range of sizes, so brides may have to have their dresses altered to fit them properly.

When a bride goes to try on wedding dresses, she will typically be measured by a professional fitter. This will involve measuring her bust, waist and hips, as well as her height and the length of her torso. These measurements will determine her bridal size, which is typically one or two sizes larger than her regular clothing size.

The bridal size is then used to order the dress or to make alterations to an existing dress. The dress will typically be fitted multiple times during the alteration process to ensure it fits the bride perfectly. This can include adjusting the bust, waist and hips, as well as the length of the dress and the straps or sleeves if necessary.

It’s worth noting that bridal sizing can vary from designer to designer, so it’s important to be aware of this when trying on dresses and ordering your dress.

Bring Dress Photos for Inspiration

Dress photos are a great way to communicate your style preferences and vision for your dream wedding dress at your dress-fitting appointments.

The fitter will be able to see the specific styles, details and embellishments you prefer when you bring pictures of dresses you like. The fitter will be able to determine what suits your style by understanding your preferences.

The fitter can better understand your wedding by seeing pictures of the venue, theme and color scheme.

Additionally, if you’re not sure which styles will work for you, show photos. Different styles can also assist the fitter in identifying the styles that would flatter your body shape. This will make you feel comfortable.

Keep an open mind and try on different styles to see what looks most flattering on you. The wedding dress you like in a picture might not look the same on you.

Don’t Try on Gowns Above Your Budget

Don’t try on gowns beyond your budget when shopping for your wedding dress. You may be tempted to try on dresses beyond your budget, but if you fall in love with one you cannot afford, it can be frustrating and disappointing.

The decision-making process can be made more difficult if you try on wedding gowns above your budget and then compare them with gowns within your budget.

Before trying on dresses, it’s recommended that you set a clear budget. Then, avoid unnecessary stress or disappointment by choosing wedding gowns within your budget.

Furthermore, even those with a limited budget can find many options at most bridal salons, regardless of their prices or styles.

If the wedding dress is beyond your budget and you can’t afford it all at once, you can also negotiate a payment plan with the salon or designers.

Start Inexpensive and Work Your Way Up

Starting inexpensive and working your way up when shopping for your wedding dress can be a smart strategy. It allows you to try different styles and get a sense of what you like and dislike before making a big investment.

It’s a good idea to begin your search by looking at dresses in your price range and then gradually increasing your budget as you go along. This will help you identify the styles, fabrics and details you like, and you’ll get a sense of what you’re willing to spend on your dream dress.

Additionally, starting with less expensive options can help you narrow down options and make decision-making easier. Once you’ve identified the styles, fabrics and details you like, you can focus on the higher-priced options that match your preferences.

It’s also worth noting that starting with less expensive options doesn’t mean you have to settle for a dress that you don’t love. Many bridal salons and designers have less expensive options, such as off-the-rack dresses, sample sales or used wedding dresses that are still beautiful and high-quality.

What is the Average Amount Spent on a Wedding Gown?

The average amount spent on a wedding dress can vary greatly depending on location, designer and dress style. However, according to a survey conducted by The Knot, the average cost of a wedding gown in the United States is around $1,600.

However, the cost of a wedding gown can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the designer, the style of the wedding dress and whether it’s custom-made or not. High-end designer dresses can cost several thousand dollars or more. At the same time, less expensive options can be found at department stores, online retailers and sample sales.

It’s also worth noting that the cost of the wedding gown is only one aspect of the overall cost of the bridal attire, and it’s important to consider the cost of other items, such as the veil, accessories and custom-made shoes.

Be Prepared to Try on a Lot of Wedding Gowns

You should be prepared to try on many dresses when wedding dress shopping. You may need to schedule several appointments before you find the perfect dress.

Trying on different styles and silhouettes at different bridal salons or designers is a good idea. Choosing a dress that flatters your body shape and that you love will increase your chances of finding it.

Additionally, taking breaks and staying hydrated while trying on dresses is important. A friend or family member can also help you stay motivated and focused during your appointments by providing a second opinion.

The same wedding dress won’t be perfect for everyone, and that’s okay. You’ll need patience, time and effort to find the right dress.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the perfect wedding dress can be a fun and exciting process, but it’s important to be prepared and to have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for. By considering your budget, body type and style preferences, you can make trying on a wedding dress more enjoyable and less overwhelming. Remember to be open-minded, bring dress photos for inspiration and have a clear budget.

Finally, and most importantly, remember to take your time and enjoy the experience, as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment to pick out your wedding gown. Wedding dress shopping can be an exciting process, but it can also be stressful. However, you can ensure the experience is enjoyable and successful with careful planning and preparation.

Happy wedding gown shopping, and congrats on your big day!

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